The construction of early airplanes was not regulated; many pilots didn't understand the dynamics of flight; weather was a continual unknown; and the 'sky was the limit' to how much fun a daring aviator could have – no matter how close to reckless they became.
The public viewed pilots as having an ethereal quality. They flew close to the heavens so they must be god-like was the common consensus. Please refer to Joseph Corn’s excellent book The Winged Gospel for a full understanding of the public’s view of aviation in the early 20th century.
But pilots were a passionate group. They would spend their last pocket change for gas, join an aerial circus, wing-walk, or just jump out of an airplane with a dubious parachute. Both men and women, those who embraced a new-found freedom, honed their craft and set records only to have them broken the next week.
It was a small group of aviators that belonged to the Golden Age of Aviation. Some became famous - Earhart, Doolittle, Lindbergh. Others contributed as much or more than the anointed ones but few know of them today - only their accomplishments. It is imperative that the aviation historian record their stories.
Moye W. Stephens stands tall among those who left their mark in the development of flight. He belonged to a class of pioneering pilots concerned with the safety of flight and aircraft. Although he once wrote an autobiography, Whither the Wild Blue Yonder which longed for the limitless freedom of the skies, Stephens was at the forefront of flight safety. He gained considerable experience flying out of Clover Field in the 1920s and then expanded his expertise as a pilot flying as a captain for Maddux, TAT, and T& WA Airlines in Ford trimotors. His navigational skills enabled him to complete a successful round-the-world flight in 1931-1932. With only a compass in a Stearman C-3B, he and Richard Halliburton made the flight in 18 months.
Northrop Corporation was founded in 1939 by Stephens and two others. With John Northrop in charge of aircraft design, the flying wing was developed. As chief test pilot, Stephens flew the N1-M as well as an assortment of Northrop prototypes during the war. The complete story of Moye Stephens’ involvement in aviation is documented in Flying Carpets, Flying Wings.